War-Zone Videos Get On-Demand Treatment in New Defense Department ProjectS

A new $29 million Defense Department project makes viewing military intelligence from Afghanistan as easy as ordering a movie from Netflix.

The Department of Defense is unveiling a Netflix Instant-style system for military intelligence that will allow military personnel around the world to view war-zone footage. Called the National System for Geo-Intelligence Video Services (NVS), the closed-access system will be accessible only by American and coalition troops and military employees.

What it is, basically, is an on-demand video system for militarily sensitive footage. Full-motion video of areas as large as 50-100 square kilometers or as small as a standard street-view surveillance camera are recorded by troops, drones, and satellites. The footage is then saved to a central video-archiving system in a transcode-friendly format.

Once the intelligence footage is saved, it is then pegged to mapping platforms such as Google Maps. The end military user will be able to click on a spot on the map—say, an IED explosion on an Afghan highway—and view all available footage from those coordinates. The video is then automatically streamed at an appropriate rate to the user's viewing platform (laptop, tablet, mobile, etc.) and Internet connection. In a nice Web 2.0 twist, users can also leave and view comments appended to the video. They also have the ability to take snapshots and snippets of specific moments in the video, including enemy attacks or strategically important events, and email them from within the system to commanding officers or other personnel.

NVS also sends email alerts to users when new video is uploaded for specific geographic coordinates, which has many practical combat applications. Previously, users were required to download video military intelligence as whole files and to then view them using a separate application—the new system is expected to cut down on the time spent in this process.

Navy Commander Robert Kraft told Defense Systems' Paul Richfield that the new tech is a potential gamechanger:

The unique aspect of NVS is its ability to get the archived video stream to the users when and how they want it, regardless of how much bandwidth they can handle […] Now stored videos are chopped up and stored as flat files—we get rid of all that. The new system is like Netflix on demand. NVS instantly knows who you are and what you want and what sort of device you're using to view the video. By using transcoding, we can get a lot more people using the service. A signal reaches out and analyzes the recipient and only gives them what they can manage […] By storing the video in one spot, we're able to federate the analysis instead of giving the raw footage to a bunch of analysts. Every user can see what the previous user saw and what they said about it. The technical challenge is the integration of all the databases—it's also a policy challenge.

NVS is a product of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), which develops visual and map-based intelligence for the Defense Department. The NGA also performs additional intelligence support work for homeland security and disaster relief operations.

However, the military's Netflix solution for video intelligence didn't come cheap. Although exact costs for NVS were not disclosed, the system is a continuation of a Joint Forces program called Valiant Angel that sorted and organized drone-collected video footage. The main contract for Valiant Angel was initially valued at $29 million and was awarded to a Lockheed Martin-led team, with a separate contract going to the Virginia-based Pixia Corporation.

NVS is based around Lockheed Martin's Audacity video-viewing platform. The Defense Department has already tested NVS in simulated combat, and the system will be deployed to Afghanistan shortly.

War-Zone Videos Get On-Demand Treatment in New Defense Department Project

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